stacks an’ stacks of letters.” (Thank you, Perry Como)

Actually, I don’t get many letters, snail mail or email. I don’t even get all that many comments. But we don’t need no steenkin’ letters–I’m gonna answer some questions anyway.

Q. You keep writing that Homeland is character driven. Well, I watched the last couple of episodes and it just seemed like regular television. What are you talking about?

A. Must ‘fess up here.  It looks like Homeland has jumped the shark. Originally the show was driven by Carrie’s (Claire Danes) relationship to Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) and Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin). No more. Season Two has devolved into a somewhat more complex and mundane Spy vs. Spy, much to my regret. I still watch it but am disheartened by the path it’s taken and no longer sing its praises. Another great show bites the dust.  Gotta love television.

Q. You extoll the virtues of Treme, but I don’t get it. Every time I turn it on, music is playing.  What kind of television show is that? A variety hour? I thought it was supposed to be about the aftermath of Katrina. What gives?

A. What gives is a unique program that is about the aftermath of Katrina, but also about people who adamantly cling to their New Orleans identity, which is, in no small measure, music and food. So the music is the meat on the bone. There are of course subplots, but each of them is connected in some way to the show’s central themes. Kudus to HBO for bringing it back for a third season (albeit, a shortened one) since it gets lousy ratings. But if you don’t enjoy a program where music is often the centerpiece, don’t bother watching Treme. I find it experimental and daring; plus I’m learning a whole lot about a distinctive, irreplaceable culture.

Q. It seems as if you have the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in your head 24/7. Haven’t you noticed the other hotspots around the world? And every time you write about the conflict you blame Israel. What is that about?

A. It’s about my background. I attended yeshivas from third grade through high school. Other than the Hasids in my high-school yeshiva, who were fervently anti-Zionist because they wanted a theocracy in Israel, I was spoon-fed a history that I later discovered was a whitewashing of the truth about the ways in which Palestinians and Arabs in Israel and out were/are actually treated.

I didn’t understand the extent until I was in college and another part of my personal history underwent a change. That had to do with the Vietnam War, which exploded the way I viewed the world. When I put the pieces back together nothing was the same. I understood what colonialism meant, the realpolitik of American foreign policy, and that understanding forged my commitment to those who were usually getting the short end of the stick. It became impossible not to rethink and relearn Israel’s history and its relationship with the Palestinian and Arab peoples. It would be totally hypocritical for me not to analyze that situation in the same way I do all others. And frankly, what I’ve written is what I believe and know it is backed by hard, cold, facts.

Q. It’s absolutely clear that you hate everyone who might be a Republican. That attitude makes me sick. It’s either your way or the highway for you and your left-wing friends and that’s just bullshit.

A. It would be if you were even close to accurate—but you’re not. I don’t hate all Republicans—as those Republicans who actually know me understand. I hate what the Republican Party has become. I grew up with Clifford Case, Jacob Javitz, and Nelson Rockefeller. And while I didn’t particularly support any of them, I believed, believe, they had honest concern for our social compact. That’s a long, long way from what the party is these days. Now the Republican Party is pushed around and controlled by people whose only concern is forcing their reactionary beliefs to become the law of the land. So, I don’t hate all Republicans. I hate the current Republican Party. I’m not too keen about the Democratic Party either.

Q. You’ve written that you’re finished with “legacy” publishers despite the fact that it was the “legacies” that published your first three Matt Jacob novels. Aren’t you ungrateful and bitter for no reason?

A. I used to be very bitter, but it wasn’t without reason. My third and then my fourth novel (which I took with me as part of a negotiated settlement) were met with ongoing attempts of censorship. In fact, during a protracted fight with the vice president of the house about the so-called villain of my third book, No Saving Grace (which they eventually published the way I wrote it) I was told to change the person’s nationality. When asked why there were no complaints about the embezzling priest, the vice president’s response was “Jews buy more books than Catholics.”  (Buy the e-book and see what I mean.)

When the same sort of pressure hit me about Ties That Blind, only aimed at Matt Jacob himself, I was done fighting and walked. At that time there were no e-books or print on demand. The only alternative to the legacies were vanity presses, aka rip-offs. So yes, I was bitter. But that bitterness passed as I grew to like jury consulting and loved the people with whom I worked. When e-books became a viable option, I retrieved all the rights to my books and decided to return to writing. The first three are available (check the Matt Jacob page on this web site) with the fourth just a few months away. Now my only censor is me and I much prefer it that way.

Q. Who the hell are you to put words in a dead person’s mouth like you did with Truman Capote?

A. A fiction writer. I make stuff up.

“You can only be afraid of what you think you know.” 
― Jiddu Krishnamurti


First, I want to thank Rawrahs for covering last week and writing a damn interesting essay in a manner only he could do.  Much appreciated.  And of course, thanks for the nice things you wrote about Sue and me.

A whole lot has happened since my last post so I’m going to land on a few of the things that caught my attention and actually stayed in my head.

First, of course, was Sandy, which crushed New York and New Jersey and wreaked havoc for a swatch of about a thousand miles.  I hope none of you who read this have suffered serious losses, but my heart is with you if you have.  My friend Bruce Turkel, who I’ve mentioned before, posted a list of places to donate for any of you want to pitch in. http://turkeltalks.com/?utm_source=Listrak&utm_medium=Email&utm_term=http%3a%2f%2fwww.TurkelTalks.com&utm_campaign=How+You+Can+Help+The+Victims+of+Hurricane+Sandy.

What struck me other than Sandy’s devastating impact were the acts of kindness displayed throughout the storm.  We are a nation strongly divided along fundamental issues that play out politically, but New Jersey Governor James “Chris” Christie said, and I paraphrase, “We don’t need no steenkin’ politics here.  We got an emergency!”  The caring and assistance folks have given each other, friend or stranger, speaks to something significant about our people.

Also, the Federal Government showed that it had learned from past mistakes and or incompetence (see Katrina) which re-enforces my notion that government is capable of change and has the potential for helping those in need.  People who want to castrate government really need to turn this horror into a learning experience.  Without the federal government working hand in hand with states, many more lives would have been lost or ruined with little or no chance of recovery.

And finally, it actually seems as if climate change is back on the table.

On a much more joyous note, last Sunday brought me together with many friends and family who helped celebrate Sue’s and my marriage.  It was a great night, at a great place, with great people.  Thank you.  I know the out-of-towners were staring Sandy in the face and I just want you to know how much we appreciate your chancing it.  And how much we appreciated the loving emails, letters, and Facebook comments.  It all turned the night into our finest.

On the campaign front, is it too much to ask that politicians’ ads be fact-checked before they’re aired?  After all, it takes about three minutes for people on the Internet to put out the truth after the ads have been seen.  Why can’t both state and federal election commissions do it first?  If we can’t keep astronomical money out of our politics (two billion dollars and counting, thanks Citizens United), can we at least try to control the outright lying?

I ain’t gonna hold my breath.

Despite all that’s been going on, there was still a bit of time to turn my attention to popular culture. (I Want My MTV!!!)

Tonight is the last night of Anthony Bourdain’s television show, No Reservations, on the Travel Channel.  Bourdain first made a splash with his bestselling book Kitchen Confidential, a back scene look at how restaurants–and especially their kitchens–operate.  A chef himself, Bourdain chronicled little known aspects–the sociology if you will–of the business with a keen eye and superior writing.

He brought those same skills to nine seasons of traveling around the world to famous and little known countries.  Ostensibly, his show was about the different foods in the countries or areas he visited.  It was–but also about far more.  Bourdain’s spotlight on each region extended way beyond food, digging in to the different cultures and the reasons behind them.  It was always a breath of television fresh air to listen to his script given his talent as a writer.  No Reservations will be missed.

And speaking about television fresh air, I still can’t say enough about Showtime’s Homeland, based upon the Israeli series Hatufim (English translation: Prisoners of War). I’ve written about this show before, but the second season maintains and perhaps surpasses the last.  This isn’t blood and guts tv with violence seeping out of every scene. This is an hour where the story and character interactions keep your ass on the edge of your seat with its twists, turns, and tension.  Claire Danes is simply terrific in her role as a driven, obsessed C.I.A. agent and Damian Lewis right there as a returned prisoner of war after eight years of captivity.  No surprise to me that the show, Danes, and Lewis all won Emmys because they sure as hell deserved them.  If you have Showtime and On Demand, you can watch the beginning of the series until the present.  Absolutely worth the time.

Finally, I’d like to again thank everyone for all their wonderful comments about Sue and our marriage.  We felt the love.  And I got the girl!!

“We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.” Margaret Mead